missouri statehouse capitol
Missouri lawmakers Wednesday again discussed online sports betting legislation but the path to legalization remains unclear.

Two bills that would allow statewide mobile sports betting received a warm reception in a House committee Wednesday. The two identical companion bills were praised by lawmakers in the House Emerging Issues committee during a hearing.

A vote out of committee and on the full House floor could come as early as this month.

“The reality is anybody right now can go download an app on their phone and participate in sports wagering in the state of Missouri,” said Rep. Phil Christofanelli, one of the House bill sponsors. “They’re just doing so illegally, and it’s happening all across our state.”

Missouri sports betting details

Representatives from several of the state’s casino operators as well as professional sports teams testified in favor of the bill Wednesday. Under the bill, the state’s casino operators would be able to open on-property retail sportsbooks as well as partner with mobile operators for statewide wagering.

Gaming companies that either operate casinos or have presumptively struck deals with sports betting operators include Penn Entertainment (Barstool), Bally’s (Bally Bet) and Caesars. The nation’s three largest sportsbooks by handle – FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM – also have sports betting partnership deals with Missouri gaming properties.

Several dozen licenses could be available under the current bill, which would allow more than 30 sportsbooks nd position Missouri as one of the leading markets by number of operators if all slots are allocated, though that cap is unlikely to be reached. The state’s proposed 10% tax rate on gross gaming revenue is below the national US median average.

Rep. Phil Christofanelli: “The reality is anybody right now can go download an app on their phone and participate in sports wagering in the state of Missouri.”

Six of the eight states bordering Missouri have already legalized sports betting. That includes the states that share Missouri’s two major metro areas, Illinois (St. Louis) and Kansas (Kansas City).

More than 30 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico have approved legal sports betting. Texas, Minnesota and Georgia are among states considering sports betting legalization measures this year.

Kansas launched its first mobile sportsbooks in September. The Kansas City Chiefs, who play their home games in Missouri, are set to play in the upcoming Super Bowl; hundreds of thousands of legal bets were placed by bettors in Kansas during Chiefs games in their recent playoff run.

Political obstacles

Missouri’s latest sports betting bill has support from Democrats and, more critically, Republicans in the GOP-controlled legislature. It still faces an uncertain political future.

Efforts to legalize sports betting have been thwarted every year since 2019 due to unresolved issues over the state’s unregulated video lottery gaming machines. Lawmakers have rejected online sports betting legislation tied to video terminal bills.

Proponents this year, once again, hope to pass a “clean” bill unaffiliated with gaming machines. A bill passed the House last year but was defeated in the Senate.

Advocates tried again to pass the bill in a special legislative session last fall, shortly after Kansas launched its mobile sportsbooks. It was not considered for debate.

“We stand in support of this bill, a clean sports wagering bill, and urge members of the committee, the House and the Senate to consider and debate this issue on its merits alone,” Jeff Morris, Penn’s Vice President of Public Affairs, said during Wednesday’s hearing.